Photo: iStockphoto.
Photo: iStockphoto.

Free Wi-Fi? Be careful

VPN apps can protect users' identity by keeping their IP address anonymous and secure all communications using end-to-end encryption

Free Wi-Fi access in public places is becoming increasingly common—coffee shops, malls, airport lounges and hotels, for instance, now offer connectivity to patrons without a charge. It’s also true that public Wi-Fi networks are used by hackers to steal data being transmitted from such devices. Security firm Symantec’s “Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report", released in July, suggests that 96% of Indians share personal information while using public Wi-Fi, especially when it comes to checking bank accounts or sharing personal photos and videos.

If you are among these, then you need a virtual private network (VPN) app. VPNs provide what is essentially a “secure tunnel", which encrypts the data being sent from, and received by, your device when it’s connected to not-so-secure Wi-Fi. VPN services also allow users to bypass internet service provider or government restrictions and access blocked websites and apps.

While enterprises use VPN services to secure communication when employees access sensitive data from remote locations, individuals are also using these to keep their online data private. An active VPN will encrypt all the data, to prevent hackers from accessing your login details, passwords, etc. VPNs work via servers located in different countries, protected with the help of security protocols such as IPsec (Internet Protocol Security), Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol) and IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange Protocol Version 2).

Here are some VPN services you can sign up for, on your PC or phone.

Opera VPN is free to download and use, with no usage limits whatsoever.
Opera VPN is free to download and use, with no usage limits whatsoever.

Opera VPN

Android, iOS, Windows 10, MacOS

What makes Opera VPN special is that it is free to download and use, with no usage limits whatsoever—but there will be in-app advertising. A feature called Guardian blocks advertisement trackers and prevents websites from collecting information on your browsing activities. It can also scan a Wi-Fi network to check for any hints of malicious interception and monitoring.

Tunnel Bear comes with 500 MB free data use every month
Tunnel Bear comes with 500 MB free data use every month

TunnelBear VPN

Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS, Chrome, Opera

Tunnel Bear comes with 500 MB free data use every month. The unlimited data subscription costs $4.16 (approximately Rs265). The Vigilant Mode prevents unencrypted data from slipping through in even the few seconds it takes to complete the initial connection.

Rocket VPN comes with 250 MB of data every month.
Rocket VPN comes with 250 MB of data every month.

Rocket VPN

Android, iOS

Rocket VPN comes with 250 MB of data every month, but for unlimited and advertisement-free access and more servers, you will have to pay Rs281 per month. The service offers the Rocket browser app too, for secure web browsing.

NordVPN routes web traffic through two VPN servers.
NordVPN routes web traffic through two VPN servers.

NordVPN

Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS

NordVPN routes web traffic through two VPN servers: Traffic is encrypted on the first server, the IP is changed, and then the data are re-encrypted on a second server. This enhances user anonymity level. It also supports the advanced IKEv2 security protocol. Subscription costs upwards of $3.29 per month.

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